CRCL Views Diversions Through the Eyes of Shrimper

Storms, hurricanes and even high tides prove that Louisiana’s land loss crisis is having real and detrimental effects on our coast.

Our coastal wetlands provide our cities and people a critical line of defense against storms. We continue to lose these wetlands at a rate of a football field of land every 100 minutes, but we’re on the edge of action to protect ourselves. We are embarking upon what is expected to be the largest environmental restoration project in our nation’s history. The state is working to break ground on the first major project to re-connect the Mississippi River to our starving wetlands, the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, by 2020. The importance of this project cannot be overstated. Sediment diversions are the cornerstone approach of Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan. We need to start building without delay.

As our state prepares for this vital project, we realized we needed to ask the question, “What will sediment diversions mean for the shrimp fishery?” To answer the question, we embarked on an ambitious project of facilitated community-based engagement with shrimpers of varying socioeconomic backgrounds to better understand their concerns.

“We need to make this critical strategy work for everyone. We need to address concerns on the front end,” said CRCL Executive Director, Kimberly Reyher. “This is a vitally important project for Louisiana. It’s important for everyone to be heard and to clear as many roadblocks as possible so the state can meet its goal of breaking ground on the Mid-Barataria Diversion in 2020.”

Louisiana’s shrimpers expressed concerns regarding changes the proposed diversion would bring about to the shrimp population. To bring these concerns to light, CRCL brought together 50 concerned shrimpers in small, facilitated groups to discuss the future of shrimping.

The resulting report, Shrimping with Diversions: Understanding the Resilience of Shrimpers in Southeast Louisiana in Response to Large-Scale Ecological Restoration Projects gave the shrimpers a voice.

The concerns and impacts from the diversion fell into three main categories – less shrimp, smaller shrimp and the shrimp moving farther away. Researchers worked with shrimpers to detail these concerns, to understand how they would impact the various participants, and to identify strategies for adaptation along with the possible obstacles to adaptation.

“Shrimpers may not be able to adapt without assistance,” said Corey Miller, Outreach Director for CRCL and lead researcher on the project. “We have the issues and concerns, along with ideas on how shrimpers can make adjustments to their businesses, all in one place. Our goal was to contribute to the larger conversation of how diversions and shrimping will coexist.”

Shrimping with Diversions is the first project of its kind to work with a specific segment of the Louisiana fishing community to aggregate their perceptions of large-scale sediment diversions and how they will affect fisheries into the future.

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